After months spent working toward a flawless routine, your dance team has just won its first National Dance Alliance championship title. You all return to campus stoked to show off your enormous trophy and banner, but when you arrive there’s no crowd to meet you. No flowers. No congratulations. No one cares about your big victory—in fact, no one even knows you competed.
As the team captain, you want your team to shine at competitions and on the court—but your performances are even more rewarding when you’ve got your school cheering you on. Your role as the head of the team means you can help your fellow members develop positive habits that will improve your presence. Read on to learn what you can do to boost your team’s reputation.
Most people at your school don’t know the difference between a good or bad pirouette, so work on perfecting something everyone does see: your commitment to learning. “We’re students and we’re expected to put 100 percent into our academics,” says Tara Petrucci, junior captain of Virginia Tech’s HighTechs dance team. This can be hard when you have to miss class for dance-team related activities, especially since many competitions fall during or close to finals time. “Never miss class unless you absolutely have to,” says Claudia Cole, co-captain of the Valdosta State Red Hots Dance Team in Valdosta, GA. “Then when it’s time to leave for Nationals, your teachers will be OK with your absence and can work with you to make up missed assignments.” All of the rehearsals, performances, late-night practices and games can be a lot to juggle with a tough academic schedule, but when you do it well, others—professors and classmates—will recognize your devotion to your team and school.
Represent with Pride
Being on the dance team isn’t just about performing and winning national titles. You’re also responsible for upholding and exemplifying your school’s image, whether you’re at the high school or collegiate level. “We’re ambassadors of our school and we’re always representing the Spiritleader program, whether we’re in our uniforms or not,” says Amanda Fitt, co-captain of the Napa Valley High School Spiritleaders, 23-time National Champions. “It’s vital to always dress appropriately, be respectful to teachers and peers and show up to class on time.”
Break the Mold
To avoid getting stuck with a Bring It On-esque rep—mean, cliquey, trashy—push past the stereotypes. “People might think of you as snobby, popular and stuck-up. Take the initiative and befriend others first,” says Raeme Sergeson, a Spiritleaders co-captain. Branch out and make a point of being friendly to all your fellow students. You’ll be able to make new friends while showing others that you’re different than they might think. “We encourage our teammates to approach anyone who may be sitting alone and start a conversation,” Amanda says. “We want everyone to feel like they have a friend at school.”
Don’t Get a Big Head
Even if you’ve just won a national title, it’s important to keep your ego in check. No one likes a braggy winner. “Remain humble,” Tara says. “You only get respect by respecting others.” Show your support for the other clubs and organizations at your school, from the drama club to the debate team. And when you’re performing at school games—even if your team is in last place and down by 30 points—take it seriously. Your unabashed enthusiasm about the event will be contagious.
Show ’Em What You’ve Got
You and your team spend hours every week honing your technique, but chances are most of your peers and the local community don’t realize your team’s caliber. Showcase your talent and hard work by organizing a public performance. “Each year before we leave for Nationals, we hold an exhibition for the student body and the community where we perform our routine,” Tara says. “It informs other dancers about what we really do—beyond the sideline routines and basic halftime performances. The exhibition gives us a chance to show off our technique and proficiency in jazz, hip hop and pom.” The Spiritleaders also hold a preview night where they showcase their routines and get to know the community. Raeme says, “We use this as a chance to introduce each member of the team and let the seniors share their future plans. Every year it’s a sold-out, standing-room-only event.”
Protect Your Rep
Sometimes, when you’re off campus or with other teammates, it can be easy to get caught up in the whirl of a party. However, all it takes is one Facebook post or tweet about a wild night to ruin a hard-earned reputation. “We say that if you wouldn’t want your mom or grandma to see you doing it, then you shouldn’t do it at all,” Claudia says. Avoid having to deal with these issues by establishing expectations and consequences for your team at the beginning of the year. “We make it clear that drama inside or out of school won’t be tolerated,” says Bethany Unruh, co-captain of the Raven Dance Team at Olathe Northwest High School in Olathe, KS. “If behavior or grades become an issue, our teammates know they may be benched or even removed from the squad. We don’t want our successes to be overshadowed by negative behavior.”
One of the easiest ways to increase your visibility is to lend a hand on campus and in the community. Start the year off right by helping new students get to know you and the school by volunteering at freshman orientation. “We help the new students understand their schedules, answer questions and teach them some of the cheers we do at football games,” Amanda says. “It lets them know we’re here to lend a helping hand.”
Get to know your neighbors and gain support from the community by looking beyond campus for opportunities to serve. “Recently, we put on a fashion show for a retirement home,” Bethany says. “It gave us the chance to brighten the residents’ days and it brought us closer as a team. Plus, our enthusiasm showed the residents we’re valuable members of the community.”
Another way to grow your fan base is to reach out to the families that often attend your school’s sporting events and games. Every year the HighTechs attend a local elementary school’s spirit night. “We perform, hang out with the kids and talk with their parents,” Tara says. “We rely on the community to help us raise money to pay for Nationals. The more we interact with them on a personal level, the more they are willing to help us in return.”
As the captain of your team, it’s your responsibility to set the example. That’s a big responsibility, but be confident. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but earning the support of your school will be worth it in the end. “Being appreciated and supported and having a good reputation means more than being number one at Nationals,” Tara says.